How To Drill Out A Lock

Updated March 15th, 2020

Getting stuck on the wrong side of a locked door, drawer or cabinet has to be one of the most frustrating problems of modern life. Thank goodness locks these days are so tough to pick… except when you’ve lost or broken the key, am I right? If you’ve got a lock problem today that’s making you gnash your teeth in frustration, we’ve got some good news for you: it’s possible to drill through many locks, saving your glass, door or cabinet. We’ve broken it down into a short and simple walkthrough. Here’s how to drill out a lock in 6 easy steps.

How to drill Out a Lock: A Walkthrough

Step 1: Make Sure Drilling the Lock is Your Only Option

Drilling a lock will thoroughly destroy it; you’ll have to get it replaced. So before you drill your lock, make sure it really is the only way you can resolve your current situation.

  • If you’re locked out of your house, patrol the house’s perimeter, examining doors and windows, to make sure there’s no other point of entry
  • Try picking the lock (hey, this could be fun)

Step 2: Examine the Lock

Unfortunately, not all locks can be drilled: for security reasons, some locks are specially designed to prevent drilling. Two types of locks that can’t be drilled are tubular locks that are fitted with a hardened steel center pin, and locks that have a drill-proof ball bearing in the middle pin. If you’re unsure about what type of lock you’re dealing with, save yourself some time and effort by calling your local hardware store and checking if they can provide you with further info.

Step 3: Get your Gear Together

So your lock can be drilled? Awesome, it’s time to ready your weapons.

You’ll need:

  • Some lubricant, like synthetic oil lubricant
  • A variable speed power drill that’s in good working condition
  • Drill bits of varying sizes – you can try masonry, high speed steel or titanium nitride bits
  • A flat headed screwdriver, or something else to twist the lock once it’s broken
  • A new lock, if you need to install one straight away for security reasons

Step 4: Time to Drill

Take a deep breath! Drilling a lock can’t be done in a rush… it requires time, patience and concentration.
Hook up a 1/8 inch drill bit to your drill. As you work the lock, you’ll be changing bits (depending on your particular lock), but this size is usually excellent for getting the job started.
Spray some lubricant all around the keyhole.
Rev the drill and slowly start to apply it to the key hole, at the base of one end: the end where the jagged blade of the key goes. There are at least 5 pins that you will need to drill through in order to break the lock.

  • Drill slowly and straight
  • If the drill starts to seize up, reverse it back out so that the metal shavings created by the drilling process can be drawn back out of the hole
  • Apply more lubricant to the end of the drill bit when the going gets tough
  • Every time you hit a pin, you’ll encounter extra resistance; just push on through it

Once you’ve drilled through all the pins, you have your pilot hole.

Step 5: Drill a Bigger Hole

Change your drill bit to a larger one – at least ¼ of an inch, depending on the lock. Add more lubricant to the keyhole and fresh drill bit, and drill through the pilot hole, breaking up the pins some more. If the door won’t unlock after the second hole is drilled, step it up by attaching an even larger drill bit and going at it again.

Step 6: Unlock the Door!

Once the pins are destroyed, use your flatheaded screwdriver to unlock the door by inserting it into the keyhole and twisting it in the “unlock” direction, just as you would with a key. Your door, drawer or cabinet should now be open and ready to use!
Replacing the lock.
If, for security reasons, you need a functioning lock in the place of the one you’ve just broken you’ll need to replace the broken lock immediately. Here’s an excellent video tutorial on how to do just that.

Using a Lock Drilling Template Can Make the Task Easier

Lock drilling templates are available from most locksmith shops or hardware stores. This handy little contraption is basically just a hard card with a hole for a key blank, and holes that are guides for where to drill out popular locks, plus a key blank.

To use the drilling template, you slip the key blank through the key blank hole in the template, into the keyhole of the lock that needs drilling. You then line up a mark on the template with the dial ring on the lock in order to correctly position the template over your lock. After finding the guide hole that matches your lock model, you drill through it to perfectly hit the pins and destroy the lock.

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